Trippin’ on Grief Conjures Internal Evil. “Woodshock” review!


After suffering the tremendous loss of her in-home hospice cared mother, Theresa descends into an inescapable state of grief and severe isolation inside her mother’s woodland home. Stumbling through life, she manages to show up at work, a cannabis distributor in town, with the verbal encouragement from her eccentric boss, but Theresa’s mind can’t grasp the reality of the situation and loses focus resulting in another tragic loss when she mistakenly hands over fatally potent pot to the incorrect customer, subsequently a friend. Along with grief and isolation, guilt comes into the fold and she begins lighting up her own stash of mind altering cannabinoids that thrust her mindset into disjointed delusions and sleepless strolls through the forest.

“Woodshock” is the 2017 drama thriller directed by two sisters: Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Credited as their freshman film, the Mulleavy sisters embark on an internal, unhinged perspective from their main character, Theresa. With that in mind, the filmmakers’ use of nature has both a symbolic and practical substance that paints the inner workings of Theresa’s thought process. Shot on location surrounded by the giant red oak trees of Northern California puts Theresa, this tiny human being, right smack dab in the middle of ginormous towers of pure ancestral nature and unable to fathom the full scope of the trees metaphorically explores how Theresa is unable to fully comprehend the overwhelming amount of emotions she ultimately succumbs to that lead her down a darker path. Nature, whether trees, butterflies, or, more so in general, landscapes, becomes a familiar motif throughout the film with the trees being the most repetitive aspect being exhibited in numerous scenes of being harvested by loggers, stripped and stored at mills, and lingering remnants of their once intact past.

“Melancholia’s” Kirsten Dunst fully embraces the role of Theresa with her mind, body, and soul by not holding back in a role that demands more of a solitary, voiceless performance blanked with grief. Dunst nails it with ease. Accompany the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” actress is Denmark born Pilou Asbæk as the pot dispenser shop owner Keith who conspires to work out deals with his special customers in need of once and for all ceasing the pain of ailment. The dynamic between the two is hot and cold as the sensation of tension is always present even if the dialogue is not. Asbæk’s Keith actually drives the plot, creating situations that put Theresa in a dilemma inducing pickle and he certainly takes advantage of her grief. Asbæk smug performance couldn’t get anymore complex as he portrays an arrogant, hippie-esque pot shop entrepreneur in a small Washington state town, but exhibits a softer side, especially for his friends and for Theresa, at times. Joe Cole (“Green Room”), Steph DuVall (“Scanner Cop”), and Jack Kilmer costar.

“Woodshock,” as a whole, attempts to grapple too much in the dimension of the subliminal. The Mulleavy sisters focus on symbolizing and using metaphors rather than being straight shooters to communicate Theresa’s internal struggle and between the montage of trees, the vibrant visuals, the double exposures, and various angles of a single action, there’s a choke that occurs, making apprehension hard to swallow. The siblings also display their inexperience at times. Despite completing impressive artistic visuals and able to create some slight movie magic as independent filmmakers, the directors’ choice to keep scenes from being cut and left on the editing room floor are questionable. One example would be Keith in the bar, moving his arms in a slow, locomotive motion, listening to a mellow track on the jukebox This scene is late is near the latter part of the film and doesn’t convey anything more about the character than already established with no transition scene to provide any kind of setup, background, or foreshadowing.

Lionsgate Films presents “Woodshock” onto a slip-covered High Definition, 1080p Blu-ray plus Digital HD. The MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-25 disc has an widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 that’s conventionally stable. Faint grain filters through, but this could be an intentional cinematography tactic. The English DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t wired to pair with such slow, mellow storyline that doesn’t have a range to fully test the HD quality except for invigorating Peter Raeburn’s enlightening hodgepodge score. The dialogue track is muddled and nearly unintelligible by the overshadowing score. Bonus material includes “Making Woodshock: A Mental Landscape” that opens up Kate and Laura’s intentions in expressing Theresa as a character, their style in filmmaking, and to up sell their cast and crew. “Woodshock” is an artistic visual stimulation with no rival, but Kate and Laure’s inexperience emanates through more than their subliminal sub-contexts. Kirsten Dunst marvelously challenges herself that inarguably gives her even more of a range as an actress that only proves her ability to not be a one trick pony in and out of Hollywood.

“Woodshock” on Blu-ray!

Evil Smells, Has Lice, and Wants Your Spare Change! “Parasites” review!

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Los Angeles’ skid row is the desolated and forgotten residence to countless displaced people living in tents or sleeping bags on the cold streets, fighting ever which way they can to live just one more day. When three University of Southern California students take a wrong turn onto the streets of skid row, a dangerous world opens to them where being young and privileged doesn’t warrant an easy pass through LA’s notorious “The Nickel.” A homeless gang, ramrodded by a vicious vagrant named Wilco, catches them trespassing under the unused sixth street bridge and detains them until the situation turns deadly wrong. When one of the students, Marshall, escapes naked and on foot, a chase ensues through the empty concrete jungle, and as he attempts to retrieve help, he encounters wretched night owls who are just as dangerous, or if not more so, than Wilco and his gang.
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The very first impression from the films of “Parasites’” director Chad Ferrin came in the form of Ferrin’s 2003 underground cannibal dweller film “The Ghouls” and, retrieving past critiques or comments from past yonder, I wasn’t too thrilled with his indie sophomore feature. However, after sitting through “Parasites” and being a fan of the 2009 pleasantly berserk “Someone’s Knocking at the Door,” a second viewing might be warranted. The 2016 film, shot on location, defines Ferrin’s immense penchant for independent filmmaking that basically tells a story of one man’s perilous and herring marathon journey through the meat grinder of Los Angeles while also reminding and resonating viewers that the homeless are just an unfortunate alternate version of ourselves.
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“Parasites” will suck every once of hope and happiness one might have for humanity to the point of believing in misanthropic perspectives. Purely oozing with cynicism in a nightmare scenario, the story couldn’t have reached such depths without a few key performances such by Robert Miano (“Giallo”), a bold and enduring role for Sean Samuels, and an always pleasant cameo by “Day of the Dead’s” most villainous captain, Joseph Pilato. Though, some exaggerated moments of peculiar over performances and prolonged montage scenes of Sean Samuels running through the barren Skid Row maze run their course with seizing captivation, but Miano steals many scenes with his spiteful portrayal of an overprotective, mad dog violent bum being the venomous snakehead of a 1980’s style street gang whose keen on hunting down and burying a college quarterback.
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What I also found interesting about the Ferrin’s scripted-narrative is the severe lack of tension with race and gender relations between the eclectic group of characters. Much of the action and dialogue flows freely without much opposition as if the racial slang or the running down of a young black man is normalcy. Gang leader Wilco only cares about one thing, his dilapidated corner of L.A., and berates everyone in a fit of racism peppered with nihilism. Ferrin purposefully implemented a Hispanic and an Asian in Wilco’s crew to run rampant with obscenities from their leader, along with a hefty woman to whom Wilco objectifies constantly with chauvinistic nicknames such as “Sugartits” and “Sweet Cheeks,” and an athletic black character being the subject of a bizarro-world reversal characteristic witch-hunt that relates awfully too familiar with recent race crimes. The social commentary leaves an everlasting trail of uncomfortable goosebumps, working their way toward the heart’s core of human morality and packing a powerful punch when not nearly one single character has any redeeming value.
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Crappy World Films in association with Girls and Corpses Magazine produces “Parasites,” an exhibition a do-or-die survival horror framed to point out the loathsome portions of past, and most certainly, current events. Ferrin’s low-budget film goes the extra mile with the brief, yet effective, violent special effects. I’m unable to critique on the audio and video quality of the 108 Media distribution release, nor the bonus features, as a screener copy was provided. “Parasites'” raw approach through characters, story, and cinematography, breathes life into a desolate place like “The Nickel” and gives power to the powerless, remarking upon the monsters we create by ignoring their existence and shunning their potential worth. The fear from this film is all too real.